The flipped classroom model flips the classic concepts of “homework” and “classwork.” What used to be an in-class lecture is studied by the student at home by watching teacher-created screencast videos. What used to be homework is now done in class. The goal in fliping the classroom is to provide more time for the teacher to interact with students and less time for them to lecture.
Chris Geocaris is the assistant director of Educational Technology at Warren High School in Gurnee, Illinois. His school is in its first full year of flipping the classroom. “I think what flipping really does is help teachers to focus,” says Geocaris. “It gives them a tool to differentiate among their students and help each one to focus on mastering their classes.”
A big tenet of flipping the classroom is to allow students to move at their own pace. A student can accelerate through a more straightforward lesson and then pause and rewind a lesson that is more complicated. “There is a big focus in our district on mastery-learning and differentiation,” says Geocaris. “For each lesson, once a student gets it, they can move on and watch the next video. If they are struggling, they have the advantage of more one on one time with the teacher during the school day.”
Before the flipping program had started, teachers at Warren High School found they were condensing a 45-minute class period in to a 5-minute catch up session for kids who had been absent. Through the more formalized flipping instruction, teachers can apply that concept on a larger scale. The typical length for a flipped video is five to 10 minutes. “The idea of a flipped classroom is not to do a 45-minute lecture outside of class,” says Geocaris. “The idea is to condense the 45 minutes of class in to a shorter lecture for the kids to digest at home.”
All of the teachers at Warren High School have a laptop; the standard had been the HP Probook 6460. The majority of the teachers who are flipping use tablet PCs, the HP EliteBook 2760. “This year, when our first run of tablets goes off cycle, we are going to move to the HP Revolve, which is the solid-state hard drive in the thin laptop,” says Geocaris.
For document cameras, some of Warren’s English teachers and AP foreign language teachers use Qomo QPC30s for recording lessons. Those subjects have more primary sources and material that is not easily converted into digital for a screencast.
Warren High School teachers record lectures using the software Screencast-O-Matic on their tablets. They also use microphones and headsets provided by the school. Some teachers work in teams and take turns recording videos rather than creating a bunch of videos on their own
This year a lot of teachers are using the free version of Screencast-O-Matic, but some bought their own pro version which has more advanced featurs. “We are going to purchase the pro license for all of our certified staff,” says Geocaris. “So everybody that works at Warren will have access to Screencast-O-Matic Pro. This gives them advanced editing features, the ability to layer webcam video, other video, trim and edit. It also features unlimited video length.” The free version of Screencast-O-Matic offers some editing features and a captured video length of 15 minutes, which is more than enough time for a flipped video. “But we just like the idea of being able to provide more editing features,” he says. “So if you’re doing a video and you misspeak, you can cut that out.” On the tablet PCs, where they are creating their screencasts, Warren teachers are using either Microsoft Windows Journal or Microsoft One Note.
There are three platforms for the flipped classroom screencasts. Warren uses YouTube for video hosting of the teachers’ lessons. Some teachers are on Schoology, a learning management system. And there is an in-house Web design template, created by a former student, that many teachers use as their website to direct kids to their videos.
For mobile devices, Geocaris likes YouTube because it is device agnostic. Anybody on any device can watch a YouTube video. “We have a BYOD policy with an open network,” he says. “That allows access for all students on their own devices.” One of the concerns with a flipped classroom is the student’s access to the Internet. “What if the student doesn’t have Internet at home or does not have access to a computer at home?” asks Geocaris. “We have labs and computers in our libraries that students have access to during lunch periods, before school, and after school.”
The team at Warren is investigating a way to host video internally, like an internal YouTube. “But like everybody else, we fight with bandwidth,” says Geocaris. “Our enrollment is 4,500. With an open network policy, we see 3,000 to 3,500 kids on our network daily. Currently we have 100 MB of bandwidth and next year we are going to 200 MB. Then we might take YouTube out of that equation. That’s going to be the first major expenditure, when we settle on what we want to host our videos on internally.”
The only additional cost the flipped classroom has brought to the school was teacher training. However, there is no large extra budget demand that falls on the district, especially since the teacher’s tablets were already in place. This was one of the major selling points for the board of education.
Since the flipped classroom videos are watched outside of the classroom, there isn’t a lot of school A/V involved in the process. “We don’t have interactive whiteboards,” says Geocaris. “We decided several years ago to go the tablet PC route.” Every single classroom is equipped with a networked Epson projector, the PowerLight 95. Those are networked so the teachers can hard wire in with the VGA cable in the wall port if they are showing videos. If they are working off their tablet and want to be wireless, then they connect via the network and are wirelessly connected to the projector. They also have mounted speakers in the ceiling. If they wanted to show a video, they plug the projector in the wall and make audio and video come through the projector
Flipped Classroom Concepts Resources
When getting started Geocaris and his team had already identified Jon Bergmann and the Flipped Learning Network as a good resource. “We found the Flipped Learning Open House and were able to send a team of foreign language teachers to go hear right from the horse’s mouth how he got it going,” says Geocaris. “We had follow-up training to make sure the websites were set up and able to upload YouTube and Screencast-O-Matic.”
Geocaris did not enlist an outside integration company at Warren High School. “We did everything in house, upon constant training over the span of about eight months,” he says. “The timeline started in December last year. The principal brought this idea forward. We had a couple of teachers who ran with the idea and researched it.”
After the initial training on the nuts and bolts of how to do screencasting, teachers move to the next level of lesson development and strategy sharing. “They need to be able to talk about what they are doing differently in their class,” says Geocaris. One tendency Geocaris noticed among the teachers who flip the classroom is they create the videos, kick those out, and then do more lecturing in class — especially when you’re dealing with math teachers. “I am a former math teacher and it’s hard to break away from that pattern,” he says. “So if you share the strategies, it is helpful to say: ‘I was doing this over here and able to get my lesson out on the video, so in class we did this project, this application, kids did this and gave me this as the final product.’ The more the teachers share back and forth, the better results they have.”
This is Warren High School’s first full year of running the flipped classroom. “Right now we have 90 to 100 teachers that are flipping to some extent,” says Geocaris. “Probably about 45 to 50 of them are full-time and flipping everything.” That was a decision each teacher made.
The student response to flipping the classroom has been positive. They enjoy the freedom to view the lessons when they want to. “They love that the screencasts are there when they study for tests and quizzes. They love that they can pause and rewind,” says Geocaris. “A lot of times in class, when the teacher is teaching, the lesson moves on and some kids fall behind. This allows them to move through at their own pace. In addition, teachers feel that their lessons run more smoothly and the kids are more engaged.”